Brace yourself — we're about to debunk one of life's most revered proverbs. It's long been said that money can't buy happiness. That's not necessarily true because fall color makes us happy, and we can buy it. Garden centers sell happiness-inducing trees and shrubs that develop spectacular autumn colors for our home landscapes.
Q: I'm being attacked by yellowjacket wasps every time I step out my door. I've set out traps that work especially well but have not found a hive. The trap uses a homemade recipe containing six ounces of vinegar, two tablespoons sugar and one teaspoon salt. I've emptied the trap several times, but there seems to be an unending amount. I'm concerned that they're attacking our huge apple crop. - Laura, Glyndon, Minn.
Remember long, long ago when receiving mail meant waiting patiently for the Post Office to deliver it? Now I think my email is slow if it takes 15 seconds to open my inbox. Fast, smooth and hassle-free is what we need. Where does gardening fit in the new order? Do we really still have to wait years for an apple tree to yield fruit? Can't plants change with the times and upgrade to high-speed efficiency?
Q: Can you identify the plant with the red berries in the photo? Royce Aardahl, Sauk Rapids, Minn. A: The plant goes by several common names including highbush cranberry, American cranberrybush and American cranberrybush viburnum. Its botanical name is Viburnum trilobum, now possibly updated to Viburnum opulus americanum. Although smaller landscape viburnums have been developed, the native highbush cranberry easily grows eight to ten feet high and wide.
Q: I love Nonstop begonias in shaded planters. I've seen seed for sale in catalogs. Are they difficult to grow from seed? - L. Hanson, Jamestown, N.D. A: Although potted Nonstop begonias are easily purchased from garden centers in spring, raising them yourself from seed is a fun project. The above photo shows Nonstops that my wife, Mary, and I grew from seed started in early January in our basement under fluorescent lights. It takes four to five months from the date of seeding until plants are large enough to transplant to outdoor containers.
Gardeners rarely bicker among themselves. It's just not part of the gardening theme. But ask people the correct way to pronounce peony, and you get as close to raucous as gardeners can get. With the pee-OH-nee group opposing the PEE-uh-nee group, who's right? PEE-uh-nee is the preferred pronunciation, according to both Webster and Cambridge Dictionaries, although polite gardeners won't snicker behind anyone's back if the other pronunciation is used.
Q: A friend shared this photo of a large planting of zinnias somewhere north of Moorhead. Do any of your readers know where it is? - Shanshan Sateren, Fargo. A: Facebook to the rescue! Many viewers responded to the photo, having driven by the beautiful rural planting of zinnias, and several were able to provide the landowner's names.
Gardening guidelines haven't changed much over the past century. Weeds are still a nuisance. Tomatoes require warmth to grow, just as they did when our great grandparents planted. But a few recommendations have changed, based on recent research, especially in lawn care. Each spring we're excited about the smell of newly mowed grass, and caring for our lawn lets us enjoy the outdoors after a long winter. By fall, weeding, watering and mowing lose their luster a bit after a long summer.
Q: Our honeycrisp apple tree is 6 years old and on its second year of fruit. The apples look scarred, and the blemishes go into the fruit. What is it and what can I do to prevent it next year? - Wayne Kutzer, Bismarck.
If we could identify gardening's golden age, what period in history would it be? The installation of the palace gardens at Versailles centuries ago? Or maybe the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar? No, it's today's gardens. Heck, they didn't even have Wave Petunias back then. We're living in an unprecedented age of plant availability. There's a never-before-heard-of quantity of new plant varieties that we can plant throughout the growing season. In the old days of bare-root trees and shrubs, planting was confined to spring and possibly fall.